Loved ones lay to rest a Madera teen that died of heat stroke

MADERA, Calif.

A casket covered in flowers carried Graciela Martinez to Madera's Saint Joachim Church. Outside, relatives and friends shared their memories of the teen.

"She was a real nice girl," said Mary Eledge. "She would always make everyone laugh, and she stood up for everyone."

Nancy Ferraro was one of the teen's teachers and says she excelled in school.

"She was also in the migrant program that I taught through UC Merced, and she used to come not only during the week all week long, but she came on Saturday for four hours at a time to learn mathematics, and she was beautiful, intelligent, wonderful," said Ferraro. "It's so surreal that she's gone."

Inside the sanctuary, dozens of people filled the pews to pray for Graciela and show their support for her large, close-knit family.

Madera Unified Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Runyon added, "The Martinez family has always been very humble, very respectful, always very caring and giving."

Graciela's siblings found her body inside their BMW last Wednesday. Authorities believe a security feature trapped the freshman inside the hot car as she waited to go into school. Her classmates and other residents responded to the tragedy through cards -- and fundraisers to help with funeral expenses.

"It's just Madera, it's who Madera is," said Runyon. "As a community, everybody pulls together, and when someone is hurting they come to their side and they comfort them and support them."

Many also gathered at Graciela's gravesite for this final farewell to a girl who will always be remembered for her sweet smile and gentle spirit.

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